Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC; 6th Sunday after Epiphany, 12 Feb. 2017
RCL Year A: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37; Psalm 119:1-8
Do you want to stand for this sermon?
Say “Yes, Yes” or “No, No.”
Do you want to sit for the sermon?
Say “Yes, Yes” or “No, No.”
[Congregation says “No, No” to stand. “Yes, Yes” to sit. Priest says “Yes, Yes” to stand to preach!]
We have just taken literally some of Jesus' words in our Gospel. At our Diocesan Convention Eucharist, Bishop Rob Skirving asked what Sunday worship might be like if we were to take Jesus literally when Jesus says: if we offer our gift at the altar & remember our brother or sister has something against us, leave our gift & go be reconciled, then come & offer our gift. Our Bishop asks how empty might our churches be?
How complicated might this make our Sunday worship here?
We humans have a tendency to complicate life. [Just ask my husband how complicated I make life!] Jesus simplifies life for us in our Gospel, reflecting the focus of our other scriptures today. All point us to life in community.1
Life in community reflects God's Love we know in the Holy Community, the Holy Trinity.
We hear about covenant relationship with God in our 1st lesson, which tells us this is “something not merely granted, but...won anew, rekindled and reconsecrated in the heart of each Israelite in every generation,”
as Jon D. Levenson says in Sinai & Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible.2
His statement reminds me of our baptizing infants, who can later make a public profession of faith at confirmation when they are old enough to speak for themselves. We recommit each time we renew our Baptismal Covenant.
Levenson notes: “Covenant is not only imposed, but also accepted. It calls with both the stern voice of duty & the tender accents of the lover, with both stick...and carrot...[It] biases the choice in favor of life...”3 [Italic & bold emphasis mine.]
Paul's words to the Corinthians speak to life, to positive living in community. He shines the light of God's truth on community: We are a community, a unity. We have different roles within this unity.
God gives the life & growth. God blesses us, each of us, with gifts to bless us as a whole Body of Christ. Sometimes we see clearly our gifts & differences. Sometimes we perceive differently.
Think of the differences between coffee & tea. What do you notice as differences between these 2 coffees? [Caffeinated & ready to drink. Decaf & needs water & to be brewed.]
Notice the differences the same manufacturer has for these 2 teas: DeTox & Joint Comfort are both for health. Notice what's alike: each box has a capacity to hold 16 tea bags. The colors are similar.
I see clearly the artwork & writing on the boxes differ. I was fascinated to discover a more subtle difference as I broke down the boxes to recycle. They look alike, yet their sizes differ.
Like us, each has different characteristics. Like us, each has one purpose: making a positive difference in someone's life. The teas promote healthy living. As disciples of Jesus, we promote healthy living in God's Love.
Jesus offers us life in God's Love. We know life offers challenges. As the Rev. Chris Rankin-Williams preached in his sermon the Sunday after the World Trade Center bombing:4
“The challenge of this life is not to stay alive.
The challenge of this life is to stay in love.”
Love casts out fear. We hear God's Love as Jesus hangs dying on the cross for us & says:
“Father forgive them.
They don't know what they are doing.”
God's forgiveness tells us much about God, about God's perception of us, & the work we have to do in life as followers of Jesus:5
“The task of life is not to get God to love you . . .
The task of life is to wake up to the fact . . .
God already loves you . . .
[so] go into the world & make as much noise with [this] love that you wake up those who are still sleeping.”
As another source says:
“[S]top trying to earn God's love &
. . . start spending it.”6
We grow into God's love, more & more as we gain insight into what God is calling us to be.
We are bearers of God's Love.
We are a work in progress.
Brueggemann, Walter. The Book That Breathes New Life: Spiritual Authority and Biblical
Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2005.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.
Howard, Cameron. B.R. “Commentary on Deuteronomy 30:15-20” Accessed: 7 Feb. 2017. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3164
Howell, The Very Rev. Miguelina. “The Gift of Reconciliation, Epiphany 6A – February 12, 2017”. Acccessed: 7 Feb. 2017. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2017/01/11/the-gift-of-reconciliation-epiphany-6a-february-12-2017/
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Levenson, Jon D. Sinai & Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible. Minneapolis: A Seabury Book. Winston Press. 1985.
Lewis, Karoline. “Discipleship in Community: Commentary on Matthew 5:21-37”. Accessed: 7 Feb. 2017. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3157
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1970.
Peterson, Brian. “Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:1-9”. Accessed: 7 Feb. 2017. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3142
Skirving, The Rt. Rev. Robert. Bishop of East Carolina. Diocesan Convention. Feb. 2017.
Voyle, Robert J. Restoring Hope: Appreciative Strategies to Resolve Grief and Resentment. Hillsboro, OR: The Appreciative Way. 2010. “Teaching Forgiveness”. www.appreciativeway.com.
1 Note: I recognized this theme in our scriptures after reading Lewis, Karoline. “Discipleship in Community: Commentary on Matthew 5:21-37”. Accessed: 7 Feb. 2017. http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3157
2 Levenson, Jon D. Sinai & Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible. P. 81.
4 Voyle, Robert J. Restoring Hope: Appreciative Strategies to Resolve Grief and Resentment. “Forgiveness Forum”. P. 5.
5 Ibid. Voyle. P. 23.
6 Ibid. Quotating Steve Bhaerman. P. 25.